Arvon calling…

Has that joke been made before? It probably has… Some of you may know I spent last week up in Yorkshire on an Arvon course. It was all about short stories, and it was taught by Nicholas Royle and Claire Massey, with a rather memorable visit from M John Harrison. Memorable because something clicked. I”m still trying to work out what exactly happened up there, but a week”s retreat, the space to think, the excellent tuition I received, and an almighty dose of mindblowing inspiration caused something strange to happen. You will find many, many clich?s on the subject of studying at Arvon. All of them are true, and they crop up repeatedly which (as Nicholas Royle pointed out to me) is why they are clich?s. I think he was suggesting it”s ok to say that “Arvon changed my life” and “something amazing happened” and other X Factor type nonsense. It”s not nonsense though…that”s the thing. A week on retreat really does do things to you as a writer. It brings a level of commitment that you may not have experienced back at home. It brings a creative stimulus that is hard to beat. There”s expert tuition, encouragement, the joy of new friendships and beautiful views to stare at from your window. I did realise, two days in, that Arvon could be held in a tower block in the middle of Birmingham and with the right input and a great bunch of fellow writers, the results would be the same. So I propose that PowWow raids Castle Vale and… Not really. I do think that PowWow could hold its own retreat in the next year or so though, and that everyone would benefit enormously. Christ, the first thing I did on returning was remove myself from Facebook. That”s how seriously I”m now taking this writing lark. So, Arvon comes highly recommended in my book. And the idea of a PowWow retreat excites me immensely. I would dearly love to spend a week with you lot, my lovely friends, and share the joy of new work emerging and creative spirits soaring.  

And The Winner Is…

I am already starting to question the wisdom of entering short story competitions, having failed at the first hurdle only last week. Litro didn’t think my effort was good enough, and I went through about seven emotions in as many seconds when I got their email. Failure hurts, especially when you have constructed your writing year on a foundation of hubris. So, if you are going to enter any of the competitions listed at the end of this post, be prepared for rejection, and lots of it. I have already resolved to enter only my best short stories because really, what’s the point in doing it any other way? There are the fees to consider where these things are concerned and unless you are entering your best work, you may as well just throw money away. This may seem screamingly obvious, but there are people who enter as many competitions as possible to increase their chances of winning something, anything. This seems foolish, desperate even…and you need to consider whether winning a particular prize is of any real value to your career as a writer. I am posting links to competitions up until June, and in June I will post links through to September, though if you follow The New Writer on Twitter, you’ll get updates regarding just about every competition in existence. Another good source of information is The Book Trust though with both of these, exercise an element of caution. Read the small print and try and gauge the worth of the prize you are entering. By this, I mean the worth to you as a writer in bothering to enter, and indeed the worth of winning the prize itself, not the monetary worth. It may well be that a small and enterprising group of literary sorts on the south coast of England has decided to put together a literary prize, but if they have a rubbish website, or they are judging it themselves rather than appointing somebody of note…well, again, what’s the point? Winning prizes (to my mind, anyway) is all about getting noticed. And you are only really going to get noticed if you win a competition that people actually rate. What I am looking for in a literary prize is a solid reputation spanning several years, a certain buzz about it on Twitter, an impressive judging panel, and the possibility of being read by an agent or offered further publishing opportunities. One of these is good, all of them is a dream come true. I haven’t mentioned the cash element because that is absolutely secondary to getting noticed. Yes a few quid would be nice, but wouldn’t seeing your story in an anthology or having your novel looked at by somebody with influence be nicer? And before I launch into the hitlist for Spring/Summer, here’s a perspective from The Literary Review on prizes, vanity and the importance of being less earnest. It’s thought-provoking stuff. Ultimately, should we bother entering competitions at all? Louise Palfreyman is a member of PowWow Writers’ Group.

LITERARY PRIZES POSSIBLY WORTH ENTERING

Deadline February 28:

Fish Flash Fiction

The Multi-Story Short Story Competition

The London School of Liberal Arts

Deadline March 1:

The Bryan MacMahon Short Story Award

The White Review

The Neil Gunn Writing Competition? theme: ‘the tenderness of stone’

Deadline March 8:

National Flash Fiction Day 100 word story competition

Deadline March 11:

BBC National Short Story Award 10am close

Deadline March 30:

Bath Short Story Award

Deadline March 31:

Aeon sci-fi, fantasy and horror…says 2012 on website, but the quarterly rounds and deadlines apply for 2013

Meridian

Flash 500

Moth Short Story Prize

Short Fiction Journal

Love On the Road theme: ‘heartbreak’

Twisted Stringybark Erotic Fiction Short Story Award

Five Stop Story publication on the Five Stop iphone app, kindle and at five stops on the tube

Deadline April 1:

Limnisa Blue Thumbnail win a week’s holiday in Greece. Ok, so this one may be more about the prize…

Deadline April 19:

Fowey Festival Du Maurier short story prize

Deadline April 30:

Bristol Short Story Prize

Lightship One Page Prize

Deadline May 31:

Bridport Prize

Yeovil Literary Prize

Frome Festival Prize